Can Law School Be Completed in Two Years?

Thinking about going to law school? The unfortunate thing about law school is the time and money required to get a degree. The traditional three-year curriculum may cost an average of $50,000 per year. For prestigious law schools such as Harvard Law School, tuition alone can cost over $65,000 per year. Thus, many wonder whether law school can be completed in less time. 

So can law school be completed in two years? Yes, law school can be completed in two years at certain schools or in conjunction with a dual degree program such as a JD/MD which can last up to six or seven years in total. Otherwise, if you want to become a successful lawyer, you generally have to attend law school for three years.

There are certain ABA-accredited law schools that offer two-year JD programs, but let’s just say these law schools aren’t going to get you the most competitive job prospects. Some of these schools don’t have 3-month long summer breaks to go off and get legal experience at internships. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting real-world legal experience during the summer. 

If you want to take your legal education seriously and are aiming for Big Law or a prestigious public interest job, you absolutely cannot attend a law school with a two-year program. These schools are usually not highly regarded or ranked well. 

But if you are really hell-bent on finishing law school in two years, you could take summer courses and winter mini-courses to get enough credits for graduation. But again, I highly recommend against doing so because you would be foregoing opportunities to get your foot into the door with employers. 

There has indeed been much debate as to whether three years of law school is necessary to become a competent and successful lawyer. But until the legal world definitely decides that two years is sufficient, aspiring lawyers should stick to what employers expect. 

You will most certainly not find any law school offering a one-year curriculum. 

The Importance of Your First-Year Summer

Your first-year summer is also important for several reasons. 

First, your first summer working for a lawyer gives you practical legal experience such as drafting contracts, writing memos, drafting litigation documents, and more. 

You don’t usually learn how to draft a Request for Interrogatories during law school. Although some law schools offer contract drafting courses, these courses are usually competitive to get into because they fill up so quickly or only accommodate a small class size. 

In sum, law schools teach legal theory, but nothing beats getting real-world experience. If you decide to attend law school, you will learn during your required professional responsibility course that the only way lawyers gain competence in the field is by being in the field. 

Second, your first summer can actually get you a return offer for post-graduate employment in certain cases. For instance, if you serve as a summer associate at a large firm, they will usually invite you back for the second summer. It really takes the pressure off recruiting season (which usually occurs immediately after your first summer) when you can walk into your second year with an offer in hand. 

Third, summer internships can give you an opportunity to further expand your network. If you do great work for your employers during the summer, they may be willing to help you out with recruiting season if they know certain lawyers at firms. The legal world is surprisingly small. 

The Importance of Your Second-Year Summer

Many, if not most, employers hire law students who were summer interns. For instance, associates in Big Law firms usually accept a return offer after serving as a 2L summer associate in the firm. It is much more difficult to get a job as an associate at a Big Law firm as a third-year law student. 

Usually, Big Law firms hiring third-year law students are looking for people who previously served as 2L summer associates and are looking to switch firms. Thus, your second summer is typically the most crucial in getting you the job you want. 

If you want to learn more about what summer interns do, we wrote a detailed article about the best 4 legal internships here

Is a 2-year law school curriculum right for anyone?

I can imagine two scenarios where going to law school for two years may be most appropriate. If your goal is simply to become licensed at your state’s bar to practice law so you can (1) take over a family business or (2) open a solo practice, then perhaps a two-year program is right for you. It certainly makes sense from a financial standpoint.

Nevertheless, you would still be missing out on summer internships where you can pick up valuable skills for the practice of law. 

Am I too old to attend law school?

You are never too old to attend law school if your dream is to become a lawyer. When I was a law student, I had friends in my class as old as 33 years old. There may have been older classmates at my school. 

For many, law school is a second career path. Many of my classmates were consultants, certified public accountants, and some had PhDs. In fact, employers, such as Big Law firms, tend to prefer students with previous work experience. I even met a law student from another school who quit medical school to pursue a legal career. 

As long as you have carefully weighed the pros and cons of going to law school and you have a genuine interest in becoming a lawyer, then your age should not matter.